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Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 4

Footwork Drills

  1. From Guardia Alta, pass with your right foot into large pace, throwing a mandritto to the head ending in Sotto il Bracchio. Redouble with a riverso ending in Coda Lunga Stretta as the left foot comes behind to complete the pass.
  2. From Guardia Alta, pass with your right foot, and throw a mandritto to the leg ending in Sotto il Braccio. Traverse left and throw a riverso to the face, ending in Coda Lunga Alta.
  3. From Guardia Alta, throw a mandritto to the head that ends in Sopra il Braccio. Slip the right foot back to the left, then pass right, lifting the hand into Guardia d’Alicorno and then throwing a mandritto to the face, ending in Sotto il Braccio.
  4. From Guardia Alta, throw a mandritto to the head that ends in Sotto il Braccio. Redouble with a rising riverso to the sword hand ending in Guardia di Testa.

Revision of Week 3

  1. Both starting in Guardia Alta, attacker throws mandritto to the head on a right pass, which the opponent parries with the buckler on a left pass. Repeat for fendente, riverso and rising riverso. 5 repetitions each for each cut.
  2. Attacker in Guardia Alta, defender in Guardia di Testa. Attacker throws a mandritto on a right pass, which the defenders parries by stepping in with a left pass and intercepting the blow in Guardia di Testa. Repeat for fendente and riverso, with 5 repetitions for each cut.
  3. Note that the riverso is thrown from Sopra il Braccio and the rising riverso is thrown from Sotto il Braccio during these drills. Neither of these 2 cuts are described as being thrown from Guardia Alta, so for pedagogy reasons we won’t do so either as it will encourage bad habits.
Marozzo1536_Cap010-Guardia-Alta
Guardia Alta

 

Defence Of Head Blow With Falso

Whereas the parry with the sword last week using the true edge was fairly easy, it has an integral vulnerability, that being the forefinger is exposed to the cut, especially on the earlier simple hilted swords typically used at the start of the 16th century. The parry with the false edge however protects the sword hand behind the cross and is therefore preferred by the Bolognese Swordsmanship authors.

The false edge parry is best understood not as a parry but as a counterattack to the opponent’s sword hand or face. By emphasising it as a counterattack, the student will automatically learn to close the line in the parry with an extended arm, which creates a cone of protection with the hilt and forte of the sword. Experience has shown that when students think of the action as a parry they will do so too close to the body and still get hit by the oppponent.

For this lesson we are going to practice 2 of the common false edge parries. The first is the transition from Sopra il Braccio to Guardia di Faccia, which will deflect the incoming blow towards our outside. The second is the transition from Guardia Alta to Guardia d’Alicorno.

Drill 1 – Stresso Tempo Counterattack from Sopra il Braccio On The Pass

The Action as Described by Manciolino

(From Sopra il Braccio) As your enemy passes to your left to cut riverso to your face, cut with the false edge to his right temple, defending the head with your buckler.
[Libro 1, Capitolo 10]

The Drill

  1. Attacker starts in Guardia Alta, and defender starts in Sopra il Braccio, sword foot forward.
  2. Attacker throws mandritto to the head on a right pass.
    Defender throws a falso to the right temple or sword hand of the attacker, ending in Guardia di Faccia. The blow should be parried during the transition to Guardia di Faccia, deflecting the blow to the defender’s outside.
  3. Repeat 5 times than swap roles.
  4. Repeat the sequence but instead using a fendente and then a riverso.

Teaching Note

  1. The parry generally intercepts the opponent’s sword at the forte with the debole, and cuts up their blade to the tip during the deflection action. This creates a change of direction, forcing the blow to pass over the head to the outside before the blow connects with the defender’s head.
  2. The success of the action relies on the turn of the hand, where it translates from palm down to palm up to hit with the false edge. This rotation of the hand accelerates the blade’s motion forward, allowing us to successfully deflect the incoming blade. This is how we manage to intercept the incoming sword, even though we moved second.
  3. Don’t think of it as a parry. Think of it as a counterattack to the attacker’s face, and the deflection is a side effect of this action.

Drill 2 – Stresso Tempo Counterattack from Guardia Alta

The Action as Described by Manciolino

(From Guardia Alta ) When the enemy throws the head blow, meet his sword hand with a falso crossed over your arm. (ie Roll into Guardia d’Alicorno)
(Libro 1, Capitolo 3)

The Drill

  1. Attacker and Defender both start in Guardia Alta.
  2. Attacker throws mandritto to the head on a right pass.
  3. The Defender turns their palm outwards, and then flicks the false edge downwards aiming to hit the sword hand on the inside of the sword hand wrist, ending in Guardia d’Alicorno. This can be done stationary (emergency parry) or on a right pass (typical parry). The cut to the wrist will either connect, or create a false edge deflection of the enemy’s sword outside our buckler arm.
  4. Repeat 5 times than swap roles.
  5. Repeat the sequence but instead using a fendente and then a riverso.

Teaching Note

  1. Like the previous drill, this works best if you think of it as a counterattack to the opponent’s sword hand. The key is to turn the palm to the outside, and then use the forefinger over the cross to whip the back edge down.
  2. Passing right is the optimal solution, as this also clears the body off the line of the attack whilst the sword comes into defend.
  3. If the false edge parry comes through early, we still have Guardia d’Alicorno to defend ourselves.

Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 3

Footwork Drills

These drills are slight revisions of the Concepts from last week, using some variant footwork and handwork.

  1. From Guardia Alta, pass with your right foot into large pace, throwing a mandritto to the head ending in Sotto il Bracchio. Redouble with a riverso ending in Coda Lunga Stretta as the left foot comes behind to complete the pass.
  2. From Guardia Alta, pass with your right foot, and throw a mandritto to the leg ending in Sotto il Braccio. Traverse left and throw a riverso to the face, ending in Coda Lunga Alta.
  3. From Guardia Alta, throw a mandritto to the head that ends in Sopra il Braccio. Slip the right foot back to the left, then pass right, lifting the hand into Guardia d’Alicorno and then throwing a mandritto to the face, ending in Sotto il Braccio.
  4. From Guardia Alta, throw a mandritto to the head that ends in Sotto il Braccio. Redouble with a rising riverso to the sword hand ending in Guardia di Testa.

Universal Defensive Actions

All our training up to this point has been about learning how to cut smoothly and effectively, so that the initial cut can be turned into a redoubled blow. In any fencing system offence without defence does not constitute a proper fencing system. This week we start to add the other half of the game that makes this a proper fencing system.

The first 2 actions we’ll be looking at are universal defensive actions that defend against most generic attacks. These are the parry with the buckler and the true edge parry using Guardia di Testa. In both cases the success of the defensive action relies on having good skeletal alignment providing a ground path for the disposition of the blow energy.

Buckler Parry Against Descending And Ascending Blows

Action as described by Manciolino

Beat the rim of the buckler up and down in response to the attack.
(Libro 1, Capitolo 4)

The Drill

  1. Both start in Guardia Alta in passo stretto. (That is with the feet close together.)
  2. The opponent throws mandritto to the head of the defender on a right pass.
  3. The defender extends the buckler into the opponent’s sword hand on a left passing step, parrying the blow. The forearm should be rotated during the action so that the buckler handle crosses the line of the opponent’s sword as this gives the strongest parry. The buckler thumb is typically at about 2 o’clock.
  4. Repeat 5 times, ensuring the buckler crosses the line of the sword in each instance.
  5. Repeat the sequence with the opponent throwing fendente, riverso and rising riverso with 5 repetitions of each.

Teaching Notes

  1. The buckler parry relies on pushing the apex of the cone of defence created by the buckler into the sword hand of the opponent. This eliminates any possibility of the attacker redirecting the blow.
  2. The blow should be caught on the rim of the buckler. The best place to catch the blow is 45° either side of the top of the buckler. This is achieved by rotating the forearm to align the buckler handle so that it crosses the line of sword.
  3. The strength of the parry comes from the skeletal alignment from buckler hand to rear foot. Against the descending blows the buckler hand should be aligned in a position similar to Guardia di Testa, which allows the energy of the blow to be dissipated via the ground path trough the rear foot.
  4. Passing forward at first seems to put us into danger, however we are actually increasing our safety by intercepting the sword at the forte which has less force than that delivered at the debole (tip). For each of the different cuts, the alignment of the buckler to the sword is done by turning the torso at the waist.

Defence Of Head Blow With Guardia di Testa

Guardia di Testa
Guardia di Testa

Action as described by Manciolino

Feint a montante, and pass with the left foot into Guardia di Testa to parry the blow. Riposte by passing right and throwing mandritto, ending in Guardia di Testa as the left comes behind the right.
(Libro 1, Capitolo 3)

The Drill

  1. The attacker starts in Guardia Alta and the defender start in Guardia di Testa, sword foot forward.
  2. The attacker throws a mandritto to the head on a right pass.
    The defender defends with a left pass, parrying the blow in Guardia di Testa.
  3. Repeat 5 times, ensuring the sword arm aligned towards the incoming low.
  4. Repeat the sequence with the attacker throwing a fendente and a riverso with 5 repetitions of each.

Teaching Notes

  1. Guardia di Testa is one of the primary true edge parries against descending blows. The strength of the parry is provided by the strength of the skeletal alignment and the ground path it provides for absorption of the blow energy.
  2. Like the buckler parry the step forwards helps catch the blow before it comes to full power, and uses the turning torso to align the parrying sword with the incoming blow.
  3. The most common mistake is to not make proper skeletal alignment either by dropping the hand or bending the arm at the elbow. Checking the body alignment before undertaking the drill is very useful for ensuring correct technique.
  4. The mnemonic people should remember for making the proper sword alignment in Guardia di Testa is 45° up, 45° across, 45° forward. This sword alignment creates the glancing surface that directs the incoming blow towards our forte where we have most strength in the parry, or completely deflects the blow towards our outside as a glancing surface.

Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 2

It’s Bolognese – everything must be chopped finely!

This lesson builds on the previous lesson where instead of making one cut per set of steps, we start making one cut per foot step. This is a crucial part of the Bolognese system and reflects the energy conserving nature of the system. We continue working from Guardia Alta as our starting guard.

Revision

Line drills practicing the 4 main cuts on the pass

  • Mandritto
  • Rising Riverso
  • Riverso
  • Fendente

Note how the cuts move from one guardia to the next, and the rising cut travels back up the previous descending cutting line.

Concept 1 – Offensive Combinations Using Mandritto and Riverso

This is one of the primary combinations of the system, and is our first look at the concept of one step one hand action.

Offensive Combination Using Mandritto, Rivero And Falso

Pass with the right foot, throwing a mandritto ending in Sopra il Bracchio with the right shoulder pointed at the breast of your enemy. Redouble with a riverso fendente ending in Coda Lunga Stretta and with a falso to the sword hand ending in Sopra il Bracchio.
(Libro 2, 3rd Assault)

By the numbers

  1. From Guardia Alta, make a passing step to the right with the right foot, cutting mandritto to the head, ending with the sword hand in Sopra il Braccio. Remember to turn the buckler forearm to create the gap for the sword hand to pass through.
  2. Let the momentum of the sword continue the rotation of the sword, so that it swings through and then cuts riverso to hit the other side of the head, as you make the corrective (backwards) step with the left foot.
  3. Allow the cut to finish, ending in Coda Lunga Stretta as the corrective step finishes.

Class notes

From Guardia Alta we cut a mandritto down onto the head, pulling the sword hand through to over our buckler arm wrist and finishing at about our elbow. (This over arm guard is the guard we call Sopra il Braccio) This cut is made on the first step with the right foot as we pass to the right. When we first practiced this we did it by cutting the mandritto to over our arm crossing the arms at the wrists, turning the thumb of our buckler hand from 2 o’clock to 10 o’clock to make space for the sword hand. We then throw the riverso, which travels in a circular fashion hitting the head on the other side in a descending direction, bringing the sword through on the corrective step of the left foot, which is back behind the right foot. The cut finishes in an outside guard position, edge turned out with sword hand just outside the line of the right leg. (This right foot forward outside guard is the guard we call Coda Lunga Stretta.)

Concept 2

Offensive Combination Using Two Mandritti

Throw a mandritto to the head that ends in Sopra il Braccio. Slip the right foot back to the left, then pass right with the right foot, lifting the hand into Guardia d’Alicorno and then throwing a mandritto to the face, ending in Sotto il Braccio.
[Manciolino Libro 2, 1st Assault]

Actual drill practiced:
Throw a mandritto to the head that ends in Sopra il Braccio on a passing step. On the corrective step throw a mandritto to the face as a circular cut, ending in Sotto il Braccio.

By the numbers

  1. From Guardia Alta, make a passing step to the right with the right foot, cutting mandritto to the head, ending with the sword hand in Sopra il Braccio. Remember to turn the buckler forearm to create the gap for the sword hand to pass through.
  2. Let the momentum of the sword continue the rotation of the sword, so that it swings through and then cuts mandritto to hit the same side of the head, as you make the corrective (backwards) step with the left foot.
  3. Allow the cut to finish, ending in Sotto il Braccio as the corrective step finishes.

Class notes

This cut begins the similar way as the Concept 1. From Guardia Alta, on a step right, we cut a mandritto down onto the head, with the sword hand cutting to just on the outside of our buckler arm wrist. (Don’t forget to turn the buckler thumb to 10 o’clock!) We then allowed the momentum of the sword to continue the cut into a circular one, and hitting to the head with a redoubled mandritto on the corrective step, finishing in the Sotto il Braccio (ie sword under the arm).

Note how the actual drill practiced is different to the specified drill. We’ll be looking at this action next week when we start to look at the basic defences against the attacks, and show why the specified action by Manciolino is better than the sequence we actually practiced.

Concept 3

Offensive Combination using Mandritto and Rising Riverso

From Guardia Alta, throw a mandritto at the head or sword arm that goes to Sotto il Bracchio. Redouble with a rising riverso also to the sword hand or face, returning to Guardia Alta.

By the numbers

  1. From Guardia Alta, make a passing step to the right with the right foot, cutting mandritto to the head, ending with the sword hand in Sotto il Braccio. Remember to turn the buckler forearm to create the gap for the sword hand to pass through.
  2. Redouble with a rising riverso, beginning the corrective step as the sword hand reaches the buckler. (This would be when the blade makes contact with the opponent’s sword arm or face).
  3. Allow the cut to finish, ending in Guardia Alta as the corrective step finishes.

Class notes:

Unlike the other 2 concepts from this lesson this exercise was about redoubling cuts when we don’t have the momentum to work with. It should also be noted that the combination isn’t explicitly described by Manciolino, but is a combination of the various mandritti from Guardia Alta, which is referenced in several places, and one of the basic offences from Sotto il Braccio described by Manciolino in Libro 2, Assault 2.

The whole purpose of this drill was to show how to continue an action from a point of rest when there is no momentum to continue the combination. It also reinforces the primary principle that if we cut between the guardie, we end in a position from which we know how to move out of. For as Manciolino states:

As strikes without shieldings are not done sensibly, so shieldings without a following of a strike should not be made, waiting for the tempos nonetheless.

Bolognese Sword & Buckler Curriculum – Lesson 1

Concept 1 – The Death Bubble

This is the area within which we can make an attack, which is roughly a bubble shape centred on the shoulder of the sword arm.

Close Distance = area inside the Death Bubble

Wide Distance = area just outside the Death Bubble

Controlling the centre space means the opponent is denied the full use of their Death Bubble, and they will generally have to move to hit us.

Marozzo actually demonstrated this concept in his manual:

Marozzo1536_Cap144-SegnoPasseggiare
Figure 1 – Marozzo’s Segno Passegiare

Concept 2 – The Basic Wide Stance (Passo Largo)

  • Feet are a shoulder’s width apart, with back leg mostly straight (knee unlocked!) and heel off the ground and the front leg also mostly straight and relaxed.
  • Torso is folded at the waist forming a straight line with the rear leg. This should centre the weight over your ball of your leading foot. (Swing the leg at hip!)
  • Minimises our own target area available to opponent’s death bubble. Just the head becomes vulnerable, and this is protected by the extended buckler.
  • Extended buckler is a defensive cone collapsing part of the opponent’s death bubble.

Bolognese-stance
Figure 2 – The basic Bolognese stance, showing spine and leg alignment

Concept 3 – The Bolognese Pass aka the triangle step

How it works

  • Rear foot steps forward at ~45° to just in front of the line of the leading foot
  • Front foot steps backwards behind to come onto guard and the now leading foot will pivot slightly on the ball of the foot, realigning back towards the opponent.
  • See image:

footwork-the-pass-pt1
Figure 3 – The first step of the pass

footwork-the-pass-pt2
Figure 4 – The second step of the pass, slope pass or traverse

Relationship to the death bubble.

  • The pass allows us to attack our opponent without stepping into their death bubble. This is best illustrated by the pass right from a left foot forward stance.

pass-into-death-bubble
Figure 5 – How the pass changes the relationship with the fencers’ death bubbles

Concept 4 – Full Cuts

Full cuts are any cuts that start from or finish in an open guardia. The open guardie are the ones where the sword is not in presence.

Cut must be made from behind the buckler, to keep the sword hand out of the opponent’s death bubble. The cuts are made on an almost vertical line which traverses the line from ear to opposite knee. This keeps the hand within the span of the shoulders which utilises the strong lifting muscles in the shoulder. Letting the hand drift outside the shoulder span shifts the weight bearing to the weaker stabiliser muscles in the shoulder, making a weaker cut and creating a muscle strain situation.

Descending cuts lead with the elbow to keep the hand behind the buckler, making the threat first as well as protecting the forearm. The effect of this action is that is creates a cut where the tip of the sword travels in a straight line directly to the target, not the arc you would get if you cut with a straight arm.

Rising cuts start with the wrist to bring the sword, and its subsequent protection, into play first. This again brings the sword into presence protecting the sword hand from a direct attack.

The primary cuts practised are all full cuts, cutting through the opponent to an open position either high or low. To begin with we start with the 2 big descending cuts of mandritto and riverso, followed by the 2 main rising cuts of rising riverso and falso dritto. In all cases the cuts are practised on the pass.

Cutting-diagram
Figure 6 – The Bolognese cutting lines

  • Mandritto (A to B) – true edge cut ending with sword hand just behind the buckler elbow
  • Rising Riverso (B to A) – true edge cut back up to Guardia Alta
  • Riverso (C to D) – true edge cut ending by the hip
  • Falso Dritto (D to C) – false edge cut back up to Guardia Alta

These cuts are actually done as a transition from one Guardia to another. The basic methods for throwing these cuts is described below.

Throwing Mandritto

  • From Guardia Alta to Sopra il Braccio or Sotto il Braccio
  • From Guardia Testa to Porta di Ferro Stretta / Larga
  • From Sopra il Braccio to Porta di Ferro or Sotto il Braccio (direct & via d’Alicorno)
  • From Porta di Ferro to Sopra il Braccio or Cingiara Porta di Ferro (charging to Guardia di Testa or Coda Lunga Stretta)
  • From Guardia Faccia to Guardia Faccia / Porta di Ferro (This charging action can be performed either as a transition to Sopra il Braccio, Guardia Testa or Coda Lunga Stretta / Alta)

 Throwing Riverso

  • From Sopra il Braccio to Coda Lunga Stretta / Alta
  • From Sotto il Braccio to Coda Lunga Stretta / Alta
  • From Porta di Ferro Larga to Guardia Faccia
  • From Guardia Faccia to the face (circular cut to Guardia Faccia)
  • From Guardia Faccia, rising riverso to Guardia Alta

Throwing Fendente

  • From Guardia Alta to Porta di Ferro Stretta (pull)
  • From Guardia Alta to Guardia Faccia (push)
  • From Guardia Testa to Porta di Ferro Stretta
  • From Guardia di Faccia, charge to Guardia Alta then to Porta di Ferro Stretta
  • From Coda Lunga Alta to Porta di Ferro Stretta

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